World-leading venue management company and the UK’s leading live events business, the NEC Group, has announced its new four-part blueprint, designed to provide a framework for running organised gatherings in safe and controlled environments as the UK examines lockdown release measures.

This document outlines how this blueprint will support the live events industry in re-starting the UK economy in the latter stages of COVID-19. Taking into consideration key government and NHS principles, the events industry is ready to face this challenge and ensure the safety of customers, visitors and partners. Following road-testing with key organisers and promoters, we are confident that by embedding this blueprint, the Group has created a sustainable solution.

The blueprint has been built upon four core principles:

  1. Implement measures to minimise the causation of transmission
  2. Introduce strict social distancing protocols
  3. Utilise data and technology to support contact tracing and testing
  4. Focus protocols and communications to reinforce behavioural change



The heart of live events is the coming together of people; to entertain, to do business, to learn. COVID-19 has eliminated events in this £70 billion industry in recent months. Industry partners and associations we work with agree, that there has never been a more important time to reconnect people – in terms of both social and economic wellbeing. Therefore, these four principles have been carefully assembled by the Group, to ensure the safe and efficient delivery of events within the UK’s current social distancing measures.  

The Group has been fully supportive of the unprecedented steps that the government has taken thus far in fighting COVID-19, prioritising the health of the population ahead of the economy. Whilst the UK has been in lockdown, the Group has provided our venues - with support from staff and contractors - to the NHS rent-free for as long as it needs to build and run NHS Nightingale Birmingham. 



“It is our view that relevant restrictions (gatherings, social distancing, non-essential travel) will not be eased, in totality, until an effective vaccine is produced and becomes widely available. The continuation of these restrictions will mean that whilst some parts of the UK economy bounce back relatively quickly, there will be a significant lag in the recovery of the live events sector, thereby requiring a longer-term industry support package.

“The NEC Group is working with industry bodies to develop protocols for running organised gatherings in safe and controlled environments for known audiences that comply with social distancing requirements.  However, until more information is available on what these restrictions entail and how long they will operate for, it is unclear how the events industry can fully recover. As a key influencer and leader in our industry, it is our job to be proactive in mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 for our customers, visitors and partners, so we can all return to hosting great events for our audiences as soon as possible.”



  1. Implement measures to minimise the causation of transmission
    1. Minimise ‘Risk People’ Entering the Venue:Thermal imaging technology will be applied at all controlled entry points. Any individuals presenting with symptoms can be identified and will be moved to isolation areas with NHS protocols on site. Individuals will then be tested using the same technology available at drive through test centres. Those showing positive results will be managed in line with existing NHS protocols. 
    2. Minimise ‘Risk Objects’ Entering the Venue:Restrictions will be introduced on luggage allowed in venue, and any luggage entering the venue will need to be treated at specific luggage sanitisation stations.
    3. Enhanced Cleaning and Sanitisation Regimes:
      c1. Daily Deep Cleans: All venues will introduce a comprehensive sanitation regime during opening hours, with particular focus on all public spaces and frequent contact surfaces.
      c2. Hand Sanitiser Dispensers: Available in key areas such as entrances and catering areas, these will be positioned in the one-way circulation paths around site. Similar to the use in hospitals, hand sanitisers will also be at every staff entrance and usage will be mandatory.
      c3. HVAC Systems: Increased use of these systems to ensure greater fresh air input.
      c4. Seating Treatments:  Communal area seating and event seating will be regularly treated with anti-bacterial spray and other technologies under investigation.
  1. Introduce strict social distancing protocols
    1. Manage Audiences: (process and behaviour) All venue ingress and egress will maintain a social distancing protocol similar to the measures currently in place for supermarkets. 
    2. Adapt Event Format: Floor plans will be devised to create adequate space between exhibitors. 
    3. Allocate Time Slots: Events will operate with timed visitor slots (e.g. morning and afternoon sessions) to help manage visitor flow and density.
    4. Controlled In-Venue Circulation: Social distancing measures will be in place with one-way circulation paths mapped out for attendees to follow. The approach will be similar, but more defined and not variable, to those in place in retail environments like Ikea.
    5. Maintain two metres distance: All staff and visitors will be advised to maintain the physical distancing measures put in place by the UK Government and NHS England, which will be communicated prominently around the venue. Current advice recommends at least two metres away from others, thus reducing space capacities but still allowing for the circulation of people.
  1. Utilise data and technology to support contact tracing and testing
    1. Traceability through Data: All events whether trade or consumer will have a strict pre-registration or ticketing process to ensure that audiences are known. Compliance with this will be mandatory to gain entry to events. Individuals who have not registered in advance will be required to provide their details on arrival.
    2. Government Support: Download confirmation of the NHSX app will be required to successfully complete the event registration process. Individuals’ registration for events will also confirm acceptance, that if required, their details can be supplied by the Group to the government for tracing purposes (in accordance with GDPR). 
    3. Regular Staff Testing: A particular focus will be on frontline staff.
  1. Focus protocols and communications to reinforce behavioural change
    1. Touch Free: Customer journeys will be adapted using the latest technology to ensure touch free journeys from car parks and train stations into venues with designated walking routes, marked with visible social distancing signage and messaging, plus alternative, sanitised door push opening products.
    2. Safe Food and Beverage Services: Food and beverage will be integrated into the one-way lanes with grab and go provision, and social distancing and protective measures will be implemented throughout venue restaurants and facilities. We will adopt cashless and touch free payment inside venues, and the use of pre-ordering services will be encouraged to reduce queuing.
    3. Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): This will be worn by all employees based on their role and responsibilities and in adherence with health and government guidance. Training on how to properly use and dispose of all PPE will be mandatory. Gloves will be provided to employees whose responsibilities include housekeeping, first aid and security.
    4. Staff Training: All employees will complete training before they return to work and daily/pre shift briefings will reinforce key messaging. Best practice briefing documents outlining the latest expert advice will be made available via the Group’s intranet platforms.
    5. Clear and Prominent Communications: NEC Group venues have highly visible digital screens situated in key locations across sites. These devices offer great exposure to audiences and will carry clear and impactful social distancing messages as a constant reminder to all on site.
    6. Pre-Visit Briefings: Communications will be issued to visitors advising them of the new protocols, this content will also be displayed on all Group websites.



NEC Group is a live entertainment business with over forty years of world-class expertise in venue and destination management. Every year, over seven million people come together at five of the UK’s leading business, leisure, and entertainment venues which come under NEC Group’s portfolio - the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), International Convention Centre (ICC), Resorts World Arena, Utilita Arena Birmingham and the Vox Conference Venue. The five venues offer almost 250,000 square metres of covered space and comprise of some of the best-connected real estate in Europe.

Additional interests include national ticketing agency, The Ticket Factory; hospitality brand, Amplify and award-winning caterer, Amadeus, as well as out-of-home digital media specialists and sponsorship consultancy, NEC Group Media Partnerships.